1. New Ways to Harass:
Josh Bernstein at New York Employment Lawyer explains a case of sexual harassment via text messages and reminds us that new technologies present new ways to harass. Bernstein concludes,
"Modern technology allows individuals to communicate without physically interacting, and a wealth of academic literature suggests that this physical disconnect leads individuals to act in a much more blunt, aggressive and exaggerated manner than they would if they could see the other person they are communicating with or hear their voice. Moreover, modern communications technology leaves a permanent record of conversations that previously might haven given rise to a he-said she-said in any sort of legal dispute. Given these trends, “textual harassment” is quickly entering the discrimination law vernacular."In terms of emerging trends, if you follow the developments in schools where kids are being bullied via electronic communications, and even "bullying" their teachers in the same way, it's pretty clear that when these kids grow up and enter the workforce some of these behaviors will enter it with them (although there is at least some hope that the behaviors will dissipate with age). As Bernstein's post suggests, the new forms of harassment aren't waiting around for the new generation, but are with us now. Some employer-side attorneys see such progressions as yet another reason to implement strict policies against use of new technologies, but others have more lienient advice for their clients. For instance, Jay Shephard of Gruntled Employees, writes of social media policy's,
"I for one prefer the "Yes" approach. Yes, social media is here to stay. Yes, employees are going to tweet and Facebook and make connections with people on social-media sites. Yes, these employees can act as effective brand ambassadors for their companies, and they should be encouraged to do so. Yes, sometimes Bad Things relating to social media might happen, but we'll deal with them. We don't need draconian policies to prevent people from acting like idiots. People are going to do that from time to time anyway. Why throw out the good along with the bad?"These new technologies and their implications give us a lot to think about. Wouldn't it be a good idea for labor and employment lawyers to get together and discuss these type of issues?
I've learned (via the Workplace Prof Blog) that there will be a symposium on the subject at NYU New York University, April 27-29. I'd like to attend, but kind of doubt I'll make it up there. I'll be interested to read whatever comes out of it. Here are the topics:
* Are You Protected? Privacy, Intellectual Property, Trade Secrets and Non-Competes in Web 2.0
* What You Really Need To Know: The Top 5 Legal and Legislative Technology Developments Impacting the Practice and the Workplace
* Telepresence and Telepresence Robots Being Used in the Workplace
* Social Media and the Global Workplace
* Public Sector Employment: Emerging Issues and their Potential Private Sector Impact
* Electronic Invasion of the Workplace: the Good, the Bad and the Aural?
* Discovery and Subpoenas for the Next Generation of
* Workplace Technology
* Technology as a Research, Communications and Collaborative Tool in the Practice of Law: Retrospective and Prospective
* Investigating and Forgetting on the Web
* Technology Tools and Legal Ethics.
I'm glad to see that on of the topics is not, "How Watson and other Super Computers are Making Labor and Employment Attorneys Obsolete." At least not this year.